I am thankful to be included in the round-table conference on “Agony of the Ganga: Loss of Culture & Natural Heritage” held during 14th & 15th July 2012. This was one of the best congregations of experts, activists and devotees of the holy mother that discussed agony of the Ganga, and realised the importance and necessity of natural free-flow in the river. The mainstream of national media also emerged against hydropower dams with a firm viewpoint, and ready to discuss alternative recyclable energy options, in addition to that the news agencies covered almost all resolutions of the seminar. In the light of media reports, this conference emerges as an initial effort dedicated to the save Ganga campaign. As thus, certain simple and necessary steps are required to prove the spirit of the program. These are as follows:
1) The participants unanimously agreed that the water and rivers are to be treated for public good, not for business and moneymaking. We have categorically stated that the draft water policy should make formal declaration to that effect. I think a team of certain dedicated persons must be appointed so that it can be ensured within the timeframe of the proposed draft. The great expertise and long time experience of Shri M.C. Gupta could be an amicable help if he heads this team.
2) The next unanimously accepted step was to ensure the adequate flow of the Ganga, even in the lean seasons. This is the first essential need that can ensure the achievement of the objective, an aviral and nirmal Ganga largely depends on it. There are various judgments of the hon’ble courts, in addition to certain constitutional provisions and agreements with the government, which can prove to be helpful in order to ensure this provision of the resolution. The well-known jurist Shri Soli Sorabjee offered his active participation for such legal affairs connected with the Ganga. I think an enthusiastic team of suitable persons—experts and activists—headed by Shri Sorabjee can bring desired results in some cases within a short time.
3) The hydro projects on different streams of the Ganga in Uttarakhand are yet another issue of prime importance. It needs immediate attention and sufficient action. The initiatives based on the decision of National Ganga River Basin Authority in the light of reports submitted by Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun and Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee can ensure it. There are certain other issues closely connected with this resolution. The cost analysis and social audit of the ecological damage to the Himalayas and displacement caused by the dam building orgy has to be addressed properly in this process. I think Shri L.K. Joshi is the best help to head the team appointed for this purpose, moreover Dr. Hishmi Husain is an authoritative expert to provide technical help.
4) The joint review by civil society and sant samaj can pave ways for certain economic gains and increase of revenue for Uttarakhand. This is necessary for the achievement of basic amenities and infrastructure along with the aspirations of local people. Shri Arun Kumar ‘Panibaba’ and Shri Srinivas Prasad Kidambi are best persons, and any of them can head the team dedicated to ensure this provision of the resolution. They can coordinate with the reasonable saints and bonafide members of civil society of the Himalayan region.
5) Agencies of the state governments and the municipalities were found to be guilty for the failures of previous projects and plans. Therefore National Ganga River Basin Authority must ensure the rigorous monitoring and implementation of all programs funded by the state. At the same time, save Ganga campaign must appoint a team of experts to monitor every next move of the NGBRA to ensure proper implementation of the said principle. I believe that Dr. Ramesh Jalan and Shri Atal Bihari Sharma are experts on these issues and any one of them can lead this team.
6) The participants of the conference seriously discussed the failures of previous initiatives like GAP-1, GAP-2, JNNURM and NGRBA. Investigation of serious issues such as corruption charges against state governments and urban local bodies by Central Bureau of Investigation or other appropriate agency is also widely discussed and resolved. The action plan must be introduced to ensure this clause of the resolution. I think Dr. Onkar Mittal is the best person to head the team appointed for this purpose.
7) The tertiary treatment of sewers and proposed PPP models are needed to be debated. Here, diversion of water bodies, channels, nala, etc. must be reviewed along with the decentralized sewage treatment system in the city sanitation plans. It needs sufficient time and appropriate forum for discussion with the concerned authorities and experts. Therefore we must authorize a team of experts for this purpose. As suggested by the members of the organizing committee Commander Sinha is the suitable person to head this working group.
The brainstorming sessions were able to ignite the human consciousness. As thus the organizer of the conference declared that the wisdom of the program must be shared with common people dwelling in the Himalayan region and the Ganga basin. The presentation of materials and thoughts of wisdom in different formats of mass media can generate awareness among people. I think the organizing committee already started working in this regard. I’d like to be updated about the progress in this direction and stay in touch with the working groups so that success of this imitative could be ensured.
I believe that we have started the series of events with a single purpose to ensure the natural free-flow of the Ganga. In 1916, during the British rule, it was easy to launch the Ganga movement, as Mahamana Madan Mohan Malviya launched against the British. But the same Mahamana died expressing the same dream and fears of free India.
Therefore we all have to work collectively. I would like to suggest that we form seven small working groups, one for each of the above recommendation, to develop the rational for the above recommendations in some detail. This will be a good way to present the deliberations and conclusions of the seminar. This will also facilitate the education campaigns focused dialogue with government agencies. At the moment such a comprehensive position paper and module is completely lacking. I am happy to work on this as a member of the drafting team and as part of any of the working group.